For centuries, the fashion industry has been known as an elitist, closed space based on the creation of idyllic myths that allude to mass desire to attain a perfect and luxurious life. Magazines have acted as a channel to evoke social and economic status as a great aspiration, which isn’t realistic to the vast majority. Publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and ELLE have provided a limited view of the fashion industry through editorials and criticism dictating the trends to follow.
However, with the arrival of the digital era, this dictatorship has suffered a democratic overthrow from new media technologies lead by a pack of young bloggers of diverse ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds. Fashion blogs have provoked a phenomenon of democratization, expansion and globalization of the fashion industry making it accessible to the masses with just one click.
2005 marked a historic moment in the digital revolution: the first fashion blog started to gain following around the world. With the help of Facebook, and other social media platforms that followed, the filipino Bryan Grey Yambao, better known as Bryan Boy, launched his blog oblivious to what was about to explode. Many other young fashionistas followed. Tavi Gevinson of Style Rookie, Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes, Rumi Neely from Fashiontoast and Susie Lau from Style Bubble are just some of the famous bloggers that emerged from that initial boom of influencers. The content featured in these blogs did not emulate that of fashion magazines. On the contrary, these bloggers published their daily outfits, which included clothes that were not made inside the big fashion houses.
These pioneers of fashion blogging catapulted themselves in the frontier of a new era in fashion gaining acceptance from fashion designers, who understood the mass effect that came with them. Soon, bloggers became front row invitees at the biggest shows. It didn’t matter anymore how many fashion editors were sitting front row if there wasn’t a blogger to report to the digital audience instantly by way of social media.
Since then, fashion bloggers have become outsiders inside this industry, who have gained access to a previously exclusive world. At least this is how blogger and author Leandra Medine from The Man Repeller sees it: “[It’s important to] Maintain a position of an outsider in fashion that has been granted this access but is only there to report to the people that are outside, like me.”
On the other hand, many have questioned the “foreigner” status of these bloggers, especially because, over the years, the original concept of “personal style blogging” has evolved tremendously. What started as a manifesto to street trends and democratization has become a digital copy of fashion editorials.
Suzy Menkes, world-renowned fashion journalist and critic, expressed her perspective on the matter in her essay “The Circus Of Fashion” published on T Magazine: “But with the aim now to receive trophy gifts and paid-for trips to the next round of shows, only the rarest of bloggers could be seen as a critic in its original meaning of a visual and cultural arbiter.” Menkes’ arguments lie on how genuine is the craft of blogging when their salary is funded by monetary and material exchanges.
Undoubtedly, in this digital era, the most valuable currency is a dense social media following. When a blogger wears a dress by x designer or promotes a product thousands, if not millions, will follow. This is how the majority of these bloggers went from being outsiders of middle class roots to protagonists of luxury. According to a recent Women’s Wear Daily report, a vast number of bloggers have earned over $1 million in 2014 from sales revenues, affiliate links, events, product endorsements and personal products. Such is the case of blogs like The Blonde Salad by Chiara Ferragni who has reportedly earned over 8 million euros.
The gradual transformation of these bloggers has ignited great debates over the future of this industry and the credibility of these individuals. To Leandra Medine, “there needs to be a code of conduct implemented in the field of blogging because it’s never going to not exist. People are not going to say: ‘You know what? I’m going to shut off my computer and start only buying print again.” Meanwhile, young entrepreneurs who swore fidelity to democracy keep climbing the dictatorial hierarchy of consumerism.
Published on Diálogo Digital on January 7, 2015.
Translated from Spanish.